Wednesday, September 12, 2012

CAGI Entry #66

Genre: YA Magical Realism
Word Count: 59,000


Seventeen-year-old Rae has spent her whole life with the ability to smell when a relationship will sour just by looking a photograph of the couple (rotting fish, anyone?). She calls it her “lovesense” and uses it to anonymously run a love guru business at school. But after seventeen years of smelling way more stinky socks than roses, Rae is ready to give up on love altogether.

Until, that is, she finds a fifteen-year-old picture in her attic that smells of apricots and honey. Even better? She's in the photo. Rae seeks the identity of her mysterious playmate with a dedication she usually reserves for her 100-meter hurdles, but as the semester progresses, all she’s finding is trouble. She’s falling for her goofy teammate, Sam—even though he’s already been crossed off her list of possibilities, and, with just weeks until the city-county track championships, her love-guru business is exposed. She is forced to convince all her friends (and the administration) that she isn't a psycho gypsy freak—or, worse, that she hasn't been taking advantage of them for years.

Suspended from school, banned from the track championships, and alienated from her classmates, Rae has one last opportunity to prove she's still the same person before her chance at love rots like stink on cheese.

First 250: 

I often regret my part-time job as the ice cream/photo counter girl at Alfred’s Drug Store. But in a town as small as Sparrow, a seventeen-year-old doesn’t have a lot of options.

No more reading relationships at work, I remind myself as I tap my cross-trainers in time with the photo processor’s whir, whir, flip.  It spews three hundred prints of Mary Brighten and her fiancĂ©, but I’m not looking--especially after last week’s debacle with Mom’s friend Barb. Trust me, being the first to know that your mom’s best friend’s husband is leaving her for their pool boy sucks the big one.

Craning my neck I see the “Alfred’s has the Answer” digital clock: forty-seven minutes until the bride waltzes in. The whir is louder than our cheesy elevator music, and my nose, even though I’m telling it no, is taking in bigger and bigger breaths. I pop another Altoid into my already crammed mouth. I don’t want to know! Think about Barb. But I’m like a crack addict needing my next hit. And there isn’t an addiction recovery program to save me.

I pull a photo off the top of the stack. Even with the wonderful aroma of fresh ink, it doesn’t begin to cover the stench of this couple. It’s more than that rotten-egg sulfur smell I made in chem lab yesterday. It’s also rotting meat and moldy, squishy potatoes. A good dinner gone wrong.

As I squint at the picture, the formally clad couple separates, not mere millimeters like I usually see, but to opposite sides of the photo.


  1. That sounds really cute! A light, fun read. Would totally pick that up. Good luck!

  2. This is such a unique premise, and your query is already in great shape. My one concern is that the photo in the attic bit gets dropped in the 2nd half of the query. I'm also confused by the last paragraph, and I think you might be focusing on the wrong stakes there. You cover a lot of the same things in the previous sentence, so instead I'd like to see the query end with the romantic stakes, possibly tying it back to her search for the guy in the photo.

    In your 250 words I love your voice and that we see a sense of who she is right away, and get to see her ability in action. The one line that tripped me up was "The whir is louder than our cheesy elevator music, and my nose, even though I’m telling it no, is taking in bigger and bigger breaths. " I didn't see what the first bit had to do with the second, so maybe transition it better to her being unable to stop herself (like she gets a tiny whiff or something and can't resist. I don't know.). But overall, this is great!

  3. Sounds like a good read - the only thing I didn't like in the query was the last line.

  4. Loved the 250 words. It's funny and I enjoyed the voice. Great descriptions too. I used to run hurdles, so I instantly related to the MC. The idea of smelling a relationship sour is really neat. Good luck!

  5. Ah! I read this at WriteOnCon and you took my advice of throwing her profession in here! Your first 250 sound AWESOME! You've made some wonderful improvements and it totally sucked me in! You work quick!

    The only thing that really struck me is the fact that her school suspends her. I come from a really small school (graduating class all of 21) and I'm not so sure her little business would have got her suspended unless she was selling drugs (literally did happen at my school). In all honesty, it's not the big of deal, in the end. I really like it and I would love to actually read it! I have nothing bad to say :)

    Best of luck!
    Jessica #96

    1. P.S seriously the first 250 are so much clearer now. I am in awe of your awesome editing abilities!

    2. Thanks Jessica! It's so good to hear that from someone that read my "before" version.

  6. Thank you all for the comments and Cupid for the contest!